Highlights: there is freedom in Toni Morrison’s difficulty, Wesley Morris is GOAT, who knows what is happening with Jussie Smollett, BTS is taking over the world, Elaine May is getting her day in the sun, newscasters in Ohio incorrectly read the Urban Dictionary, dinosaurs are dead, it is hard to save animals during natural disasters, climate change is hurting small farms, and Mayor Pete is finally getting critiqued.
1. Slate: On Black Difficulty
I don’t know if I have ever been called difficult, but I’ve often been referred to as divisive, although that word wasn’t always the one used. I grew up being told constantly that my personality was too much and how I needed to fix myself to become more palatable. I still get many of the same critiques I used to—that I’m dramatic, I talk too much, get excited too easily—but I often don’t care anymore. I usually know when I am being those things, and have become very okay with people not liking me for superfluous reasons.
Toni Morrison has the reputation of being difficult. Her work “is difficult to read. She’s difficult to teach. She’s difficult to interview. Notwithstanding the voluminous train of profiles, reviews, and scholarly analysis that she drags behind her, she’s difficult to write about. But more to the point, she is our only truly canonical black, female writer—and her work is complex. This, it seems, is difficult to swallow.” The word “difficult” applied to black women means something more than in other contexts, and “there are many ways to be ‘difficult’ in this world: stubborn, demanding, inconvenient, complex, troublesome, baffling, illegible. Black womanhood is where they overlap.”
Morrison possesses a “specific, human, black, female freedom: to feel at ease to be difficult.”
This might be my pick of the week. Wesley Morris is my favorite cultural critic at the moment. He is articulate, smart, incisive, and, at times, painfully aware of the pitfalls of his discipline. Morris’ most popular article recently was “The Morality Wars,” published in the New York Times Magazine last fall, arguing that a work of culture (TV, film, visual art, etc.) “being morally good” has “superseded any imperative for it to be creatively better,” and that this “moral” way of looking at cultural products is the main lens for cultural criticism at the moment. For Morris, “none of this stuff we call equality works if I’m not allowed to not like a show that could be better than it actually is.” We’ve forgotten how to ask artworks how they are working, and in what ways they are working. We’ve only been asking them if they are morally righteous.
3. NBC News: Other cases are dismissed in Chicago, but not like Jussie Smollett’s was
This is such a HOT DAMN MESS. There is so much going on with this case that it’s tough to give a good summary. My limited understanding is that Jussie Smollett (probably) did it, the prosecutor Kim Fox recused herself, and the charges were dismissed because Smollett is rich and famous.
4. Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Showmen: An exclusive look inside the world of BTS
As much as I write about pop culture, I never think of myself as following pop music. I actually don’t even think of myself as following music generally. I don’t think of myself in these ways because I’m usually less interested in an artist’s music from a musicological perspective than I am from a cultural impact perspective. In most instances, I don’t really care about artists’ work, I only care about how and why people like it, and what gives it social/cultural capital.
All of this being said, I really don’t care about BTS as artists. If you don’t know about BTS, it is probably the most popular K-pop group in the world, having “two No. 1 albums on the Billboard chart in the span of three months; more than 5 billion streams combined on Apple Music and Spotify; a string of sold-out concert dates from the Staples Center in Los Angeles to London’s famed Wembley Stadium.” I’m sure I’ve heard one of their songs playing somewhere, but I haven’t the slightest clue what they sound like.
I only began paying attention to BTS after they started showing up at American awards shows. And per my first paragraph rant, I’m less into their music, and more interested in BTS’s fame, and what it means in the current cultural and geopolitical moment. BTS’s fame “speaks to an unprecedented kind of global currency — one where pop music moves without barriers or borders.”
5. The Ringer: Heaven Can Wait: The Hidden Genius of Elaine May
I had never heard of Elaine May before reading this, but she sounds like a BADASS! May, who is notoriously private, was the only woman directing large studio films in Hollywood in the late 1960s… AND WOULD NOT PUT UP WITH ANY OF THEIR SHIT! Apparently she got into a fight with Paramount pictures about the final cut of her film Mikey and Nicky, “stole the print from the studio, hid it in her garage like a punk-fucking-rocker, and stared the studio down to put out the version she wanted,” according to sentiments given by Patton Oswalt after May was given a lifetime achievement award from the Writers Guild of America in 2016. DAMN… I’m going to need to watch some of her films!
6. YouTube: WTOL TPS TESTING
Eeeekkkkk! Who thought this was a good idea?!? I mean, it is kinda a great for a viral video, not necessarily for a news broadcast. My ears are bleeding from watching this, yet I can’t stop!
7. The New Yorker: The Day the Dinosaurs Died
For years scientists have been trying to understand exactly what happened to the dinosaurs. It has been largely accepted since the 1990s that their extinction was caused by an asteroid hitting the Earth. When the astroid hit sending 25 trillion metric tons of debris into the air, “the Cretaceous period ended and the Paleogene period began.” This shows as a strip of black rock on Earth’s crust knowns as the “KT boundary, because it marks the dividing line between the Cretaceous period and the Tertiary period.”
No dinosaurs have been found above the KT boundry, or even very close to it, making some paleontologists hypothize that the dinosaurs died before the asteroid. Robert DePalma, a PhD candidate at the University of Kansas, might have found the dig site of the century, a moment frozen in geological time of when the astroid hit.
8. Medium: Every Living Creature
When natural disasters occur, animals are often forgotten. It can be expensive to get them to other countries. And the limited resources available are often diverted to human survivors. This is exactly what happened when a volcano erupted in Montserrat, dropping “five million cubic meters of ash” across the small Caribbean island. Experts had warned about the eruption for years, but due to the island’s British colonial past, leaders were reticent to heed the warnings of outside experts.
By the time people started leaving their homes in the island’s decimated south, there wasn’t time to bring their animals, and the shelters did not accept animals. “Residents set dogs and cats loose in the streets in last-ditch attempts to save them. They freed cows and donkeys in the fields.” The destruction “was a Biblical annihilation. The animals of Montserrat were slowly, painfully dying.” John Walsh, with the help of a small dedicated crew, stayed to save them.
9. The New Republic: Climate Change and the Death of the Small Farm
One of my friends grew up on a cattle farm, which I always (wrongly, as I’m told) refer to as her cow farm. We grew up 40 minutes away from each other but I have never been to her farm. We both live in DC now, and I’m constantly trying to convince her that we should take a trip home so I can meet her baby cows, as I’ve always wanted to pet one. I’ve yet to be successful, but she seems receptive to the future ranch I’ve decided she will own in Montana, so that’s progress.
Admittedly, I have a very distant relationship with my food, as many Americans do. If it weren’t for that friend and my father, who works in agricultural economics, I would think even less frequently about where my food comes. In farming, it is inevitable that there will be bad years, but they are becoming more frequent. Due to climate change, flooding from excessive melt and rain has “caused vast fields of corn, soy, and other crops to be washed away” in the Midwest. “Countless hogs, calves, and chickens have been killed. Iowa is estimating $1.6 billion in losses, Nebraska $1.3 billion, but the overall damage is hard to calculate because the floodwaters haven’t receded.” This will impact the price of food in the coming months, and for some small and family-owned farms might mean the end of generations of hard work and labor.
10. Current Affairs: All About Pete
I feel like this is the article I’ve been waiting to read for a while. I wrote recently about how I like Buttigieg, but was (and still am) reserved in my support due to the lack of information on the specifics of his platform. Everything Buttigieg says sounds good, but I wondered if he was actually that good.
This article—which is a review of Buttigieg’s new autobiography, Shortest Way Home—is incredibly critical of Buttigieg and his policies in Southbend, Indiana, where he is currently mayor. The book review offers good insight into how Buttigieg thinks, and what it might mean on a national scale. “What’s disturbing about Buttigieg is that he doesn’t even seem very interested in the problems at all. Someone should ask him: Why does his book spend less time talking about poverty than about the time he played Rhapsody in Blue on the piano with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra?” It’s a simple question, but it’s a question the candidate might not have a witty answer to. Maybe we need a president that isn’t perfect: “fucked-up people with convictions and gusto… real human beings, not CV-padding corporate zombies.” Zoe Leonard is probably still right.
*All images taken from reference articles*
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